The Art of the Reissue
When Matt Pike left Sleep in 1999 to form High on Fire, the point appeared to be to take the “stoner” out of “stoner metal,” and to create loud, slow gut-churning sludge-rock instead. The new band’s debut EP, The Art of Self Defense, accomplished this, but it was released by a record label that went bankrupt. High on Fire was soon picked up by Relapse Records and went on to release a number of successful albums, but now fans finally get a chance to hear how it all started, remastered and restored.
Fans of the band already know that High on Fire start at 11 and stay there, pounding drums and bass behind a shuffling of power-chord riffs and extended jams. But they might not appreciate the evolution from psychedelic doom metal to the band they now know. While The Art of Self Defense already shows a defiant lack of what made Sleep popular, there are threads of Pike’s past, such as the echoed vocals in “Blood from Zion” or the extended introduction to “Fireface.” The band is redeemed, however, by a vaguely baroque riff or a subtle bass arpeggio. The upgraded production makes it sound like this album could have been recorded yesterday, and removes some mud from the tires of the original.
Following the original six songs are some treats: High on Fire covers “The Usurper,” a classic Celtic Frost song, using their roots to justify their intentions. There are also some demo versions of other tunes on the EP, and it’s entertaining to compare them to the finals. Overall, this reissue enhances the band’s catalog and is a must-have for High on Fire fans.